October 15, 2010

Catechesis is essential to nurture relationship with Christ, speaker says

By Mary Ann Wyand

Catholics need to learn anew what it means to be in relationship with Christ, Therese Polakovic told “Treasuring Womanhood” participants on Sept. 18 at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis.

To know God better is to love him even more, said Polakovic, the co-founder and executive director of ENDOW, a national catechetical ministry dedicated to “Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women.”

“Every new thing learned about God is another reason for loving him,” she said. “Our mission is to transform the culture by educating women about their true nature and dignity as persons made in the image of God.”

During her keynote address at the seventh annual Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference, Polakovic said ENDOW distributes study guides based on the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI, the late Pope John Paul II, and other Catholic theologians and philosophers.

“We help ordinary women of faith to stretch intellectually as they learn more about the theological underpinnings of the faith that they profess and love and live,” she said. “Our aim is to put study guides into their hands that accurately reflect authentic Church teaching with the goal of helping to make them more knowledgeable and thus more fervent in the practice of their Catholic faith.

“We have found that when this happens they fall more deeply in love with God,” Polakovic said, “and thus elevate society as Catholic women … in the home, the Church and the world.”

Since ENDOW was started seven years ago in Denver, she said, more than 6,500 Catholic women have participated in its educational programs and benefited from its publications.

In 2008, Polakovic attended a conference hosted by the Pontifical Council of the Laity in Rome in honor of the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of Pope John Paul’s apostolic letter “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women.”

The international conference addressed the challenges of living out the late pope’s message advocating a new Christian feminism in contemporary society.

“Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, the president of the Pontifical Council of the Laity, began by stating that we are living in a crucial time when ‘nothing less than the human person is hanging in the balance,’ ” Polakovic said. “It was a shocking start to the conference, and it was meant to be.”

Conference speakers examined a variety of societal problems, she said, including lack of respect for the sanctity of life as well as the ongoing fight over women’s identity during the past half century.

“During these years, the relationship between men and women has been skewed, devolving into one of antagonism and resentment,” she said. “In fact, they explained, we are in a great war over the dignity of the human person, and the war is being waged around women … because life is transmitted through women. So, if you deconstruct women, you deconstruct the family, which is the basis of society.”

This cultural attack on family life is a result of contemporary society’s emphasis on relativism and free will, she said, which excludes God as the author of life and negates moral codes.

“These are all very grave concerns,” Polakovic said, “concerns which will ultimately define our society and the world as we know it. However, nothing unnerved me quite as much as when we were told point blank that we now have an entire generation of women who are unable to pass the faith on to their children because they don’t know the [tenets of the] faith. … We are completely unprepared for the cultural battle that lies before us.”

In addition to nurturing children’s physical and emotional needs, she said, mothers must care for their spiritual needs.

“We have our children under our roofs, in our nests, where we can influence them daily, for a very short period,” Polakovic emphasized. “The time we have with them is finite, but the consequences are eternal. … [But] many of us were never taught the deep and beautiful truths found within the Catholic faith so it is no wonder that we aren’t able to pass them on.”

Mothers must continue to tell their children the story of what it means to be Catholic, she said, so the truths of the faith can be passed on to a new generation that is searching for meaning and purpose in their lives.

“Not to know the traditions—the story—[of our faith] threatens our identity as people of God,” Polakovic said. “… The Second Vatican … was meant to be a wake-up call to all Catholics of our primary role, which is to be on the front lines evangelizing the culture.”

It is a profound blessing to be Catholic, she said, and to share the faith of Jesus and the saints with others.

“We need to rededicate ourselves to learning about our faith for the sake of our children,” Polakovic said. “They are entitled to know their [faith] story. It is their birthright.”

(For more information about ENDOW, log on to www.endowonline.com.)

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